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Posts tagged ‘Wordpress’

once more, with feeling

December 17, 2012

fransiweinstein

Okay. This is the third, and final, post I wrote for my other blog, 365, I’m re-posting here. This time I’m not going to apologize to anyone who may have read it ‘over there’. Because if you’re a writer, or an aspiring writer, this is one message you cannot hear too often. In fact, it should be burned into your brain. It’s definitely burned into mine. Thanks for reading my blogs. It’s much appreciated. Hope to see you here again.

Pete Armetta has a WordPress blog I very much enjoy. He’s a powerful writer of poetry, flash fiction, essays and short stories; and I’m always struck by how few words he needs, to say so much. Which, incidentally, is much easier said than done. His ‘style’ brings to mind a favourite Mark Twain quote:

“I am sorry to have written such a long letter, but I did not have time to write a short one”.

Says it all. Because the true measure of a writer is the ability to self-edit. To be ruthless. Brutal. To choose words carefully. To make every one work hard. And having talent is the least of it. It takes discipline. Love of the craft. The ability to let go. To love ‘em, but leave ‘em, on the cutting room floor. To know when you’re done.

So really, a writer’s best friend isn’t a computer. Or a dictionary. Or a thesaurus. It’s the eraser.

Luckily, I learned that very early in my career. It was hard. And painful. But the best thing that could ever have happened to a young writer, just starting out. Which is why I wrote a blog post about it.

When I commented on Pete’s poem, and how much I admire his ability to keep only what’s absolutely essential, he responded, simply: “Less is best, I think.” Again, says it all.

And it’s a philosophy that’s not restricted to writers. It’s one reason why I love Italian design. What Giorgio Armani has always done best, is to allow exquisite fabrics and flawless tailoring take centre stage. Italian cars and furniture, same thing. It’s about simplicity. Beautiful design. Perfection. Less is best.

Embellishments are not necessary, because they have no flaws or imperfections to hide.

It’s what I love about Apple. The computers themselves. The web browser, Safari. And the stores. Oh, how I love the stores. But really, everything they do all looks alike. Lots of white space. Everything in its place. A logical place. Easy to find. Easy to use. Efficient. Nice to look at. Sleek. Clean. Unencumbered. No gimmicks. So contemporary. Only what’s necessary. Again, simple and beautifully designed. Highly functional.

Less is best.

There are people who speak that way. I could listen to them for hours. Well organized thoughts. Succinct. Articulate. Focussed. No hesitation. No pausing. No grasping for words. No hemming or hawing. Never repetitive. Smooth transitions from one sentence to the next. No convoluted sentences. The complete opposite of verbose. Short, sweet and to the point. Yet warm. Engaging. Informative. And interesting. They’ve got my attention, that’s for damn sure!

I’m writing a book. My first. Very early on I decided it should come in at between 70 and 80,000 words. I’d read something, somewhere. As each chapter was completed, I’d frantically check my word count. And I’d go back and add more. And more. And more.

Until it was so filled with gratuitous nonsense, the story was lost. It had become incomprehensible. Then I remembered that lesson I’d learned years ago. And how “Tuesdays with Morrie”, one of the most successful books of all time, had less than 200 pages. My book has to be as long as it has to be, to tell the story. Not one word longer. The number of words isn’t the point. And that’s when I went back and started slashing. And slashing. And slashing.

Less is best.

I’m done.

an encore performance

December 11, 2012

fransiweinstein

Last time I posted, I mentioned there were a couple more stories from my other blog, 365, that I’d re-post.  Here’s one of them.  With one more to follow soon.  Again if you follow both my blogs, thank you for doing so; and I apologize for the repetition.  Hopefully you feel these few posts are worth reading more than once.

Last time I talked about a lot of ways non-creative people are still creative.  See, it’s not an oxymoron.  But I did confine the conversation to those of us who work in ad agencies, an industry perceived as being ‘creative’ anyway.  And because I think it’s important for you to know I’m a firm believer in the fact that creativity can, and should , and does, exist outside of ‘creative’ businesses, I’m approaching the idea from a different perspective this time.

At its very simplest, it’s called out of the box thinking.  Being willing to turn a problem, or a tough challenge, on its ear, looking at it from a different angle, through a different lens.

Being willing, regardless of what you do for a living, to sweep aside the status quo and embrace new ideas.  Different ideas.  Unconventional ideas for your industry.  Client-centric ideas.  Revolutionary ideas.  Never-before-considered or tried ideas.  Regardless of whether you work in the private or public sectors.  Regardless of whether you are a health care worker, an educator, a politician, a CEO, a sales person, a scientist, a researcher, a lawyer, or an accountant; or even a tinker, tailor, soldier or spy.

What I’m talking about is ‘design thinking’.  Born out of industrial design, design thinking is a very disciplined, systematic, strategic process (yet intensely creative) that is used to solve what most of us would consider unsolvable challenges, like finding an innovative way to deliver clean drinking water in the developing world.  I find it absolutely fascinating.  I’m obsessed with it, in fact.  And I am a rabid fan of a global consultancy based in California, IDEO, who are pioneers in the field, and worked on the drinking water project.  I am also a huge fan of their President and CEO, Tim Brown, who has written a book, that I have read at least two dozen times.  Buy it, you won’t be sorry.

He spoke in Toronto earlier this year, and I went.  Surprise, surprise.  He presented a lot of impressive and varied case studies, but my favourite was a project they did for the Singapore government.  I have actually written it up, here on Fransi Weinstein Et Al.

I follow a lot of very good WordPress blogs.  One of them is called Book Peeps.  And the other day its author posted an interesting and provocative piece on education.  Specifically, what’s wrong with our educational ‘system’, who’s really to blame, what role both parents and teachers can play and what can be done about it.  Her post was inspired by an article (there’s a link to it in the post) she read, about the differences in how eastern and western cultures tackle teaching.

As I read her post, all I could think was:  “Now there’s an ‘opportunity’ that’s just crying out for a team from IDEO.”  And that’s what inspired this post, of men.

Any other issues you can think of that could benefit from some innovative thinking, IDEO style?  In my not so humble opinion, the U.S. ‘fiscal cliff’ issue is a perfect candidate.  If I was President Obama I’d be thinking seriously about bringing them to the table.  I’m certainly in no position to speak for the management of IDEO but I’ll bet they might even consider doing it pro bono.  I sure would.  Talk about a juicy assignment.  And talk about the fame (and fortune) that would follow, if you could wrestle that problem to the ground successfully!

But in all seriousness, that issue is going to take creative thinking to solve.  And from what I’ve seen, at a great distance I admit, I’m not so sure the people involved have what it takes.

For that mater, the Middle East crisis desperately needs some innovative thinking, as well.  But not all the ‘problems’ need to be as grand as these few examples I’ve cited.  Even in our local communities there are many opportunities to look at things differently.  To improve the way they’re done.  Make them more efficient.  Make them easier to use or access.  Make them more end-user friendly.  Make them more relevant.  Make them more cost effective.

The solutions are within all of us.  We just need to climb out of the rut we’re in.  We just need to open our eyes and ears and minds to the possibilities.  We just need to learn how to collaborate, because non of us has the answer on our own.  We just need to embrace change.  And most of all, we just need to want to have the time of our lives, because there’s nothing more stimulating, or fun, energizing and exciting, than solving problems, brilliantly!

President Obama’s campaign theme was ‘Forward’.  I’d like to add something to that:  ‘Forward.  Redefined!’

the art of writing emails

August 8, 2012

fransiweinstein

I have a new WordPress blog — Three Hundred Sixty-Five (hope you’ll visit, by the way) and yesterday’s post — my first on that blog — was about how much I loved the email exchanges between the two main characters in the hot, hot, hot (referring to sales in this instance) erotic trilogy “Fifty Shades of Grey”, “Fifty Shades Darker” and “Fifty Shades Freed”.

Yes, I know.

Of all the conversations going on, all over the world, about E.L. James’ novels you’ve never heard anyone talking about the emails before.  And that’s fine with me.  I think there’s a good point to be made about what makes for an effective email.  And, besides, there’s more than enough people already discussing the innocent virgin, Anastasia Steele … the handsome billionaire, Christian Grey who, when he’s not making money, likes to blindfold, gag, handcuff and dominate beautiful brunettes … his red room of pain … floggers … riding crops …  and virtually non-stop sex.

So emails it is.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  And if you’re not one of the 40 million people who’ve read the books so far, see if you can borrow them — just so you’ll know what I’m talking about:

With only a couple of exceptions the Fifty Shades emails are very short.  Some are more serious than others, but they are simple, frank (and I don’t mean sexually explicit), witty, charming and very engaging.  Qualities I rarely see in emails I receive — from friends and family, companies I do business with, and those who are trying to entice me to do business with them.  Most of them are deadly, deadly dull.  Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

The subject lines in these three books do exactly what they’re supposed to do — grab your attention and draw you in to the email itself.  Not that I’m suggesting that your next email have ‘panting’ in the subject line — unless, of course, you’re writing your lover or selling asthma puffers.  And then I bet you’d get a great click-through rate.  But in all seriousness, direct marketers totally understand the importance of subject lines because their mission is the same as the envelope teaser:  Get the recipient intrigued enough to either open the email or the envelope so they can see your message.  And offer if you’re writing a business email.

And what can I say about the signatures?  Again, so charming and clever.  Great for personal emails.  But I do suggest you be judicious with email campaigns you’re creating for clients — not that you can’t try to see if there’s something appropriate you can do to humanize your signatures — just be circumspect.

Among all the other work I do for clients, I do often write email campaigns, and I’m happy to say they’re quite successful.  But since reading Fifty Shades I must admit that I am looking at them differently; and I’m definitely trying to have more fun with my personal emails.  So what do you think?

Is it time for all of us to ‘spice’ up our emails?  No sexual innuendos required, by the way.

how a WordPress blogger inspired me …

January 9, 2012

fransiweinstein

Who’d a thunk it?

Not so long ago I was trolling through WordPress, as I often do, looking for interesting blogs — and found one almost immediately (oh, I know there are tons of them), but this was the first one I got to and I loved it — so I didn’t look for any more that night.  If you’re a writer — or even just love reading interesting, well-written posts — then you should check it out:  Magnificent Nose.  What I find really interesting is the fact that there are several writers who contribute to it.  It’s a neat idea and they’re all great writers.  In fact, I liked it so much, I decided to follow it, and subscribed so I would get email notices every time there’s a new post.

Over the holidays I was notified that Julie Goldberg — had just posted:  “I don’t have time to believe in writer’s block”.  I don’t know a writer who hasn’t, at one time or another, stared at a piece of paper (or a computer screen) hour after hour, day after day, maybe even week after week or month after month — and it just stared back.  So needless to say I was intrigued.  And once I got into her story I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

What Julie was describing was a scenario I am currently living through — or at least was living through until I read her blog post:  A novel she’s been writing for about 20 years.  A project she starts and stops and starts and stops etc. etc. etc.  The good news is, she’s finally making some good progress.  But that’s not why I’m sharing this with you.

I started writing a book almost 4 years ago.  Amazingly, I had about 6 chapters written in 5 months — and I had a full time job at the time.  Got off to a really fabulous start while visiting friends in Bequia, where I wrote 3 chapters in 10 days.  And then I hit a wall.

No, it wasn’t writer’s block.  It took me about a month to figure out that I was avoiding the chapter that came next because it dealt with subject matter I didn’t want to re-live:  The death of my mother.  Once I figured that out I had a decision to make.  Deal with it and write the chapter or abandon the book forever more, because the book would not be the book without that chapter.

By then I had become a freelance writer and a strategic consultant so I was working from home.  The quiet was too much for me so I took my laptop to a neighbourhood Starbucks and wrote it in 3 days.  I sat there for as long as 7 hours a day — and yes, I kept buying. I drowned myself in coffee and tea and water and sustained myself with yoghurt and cheese and crackers and the odd  slice of lemon poppyseed poundcake — so I didn’t have to feel guilty about being there all day.

And that was that.

Several times I tried to get back into it and couldn’t.  I was distracted.  I knew it wasn’t writer’s block — I have been doing all kinds of writing — just not on my book.  The longer I was away from my book, the more pissed off at myself I became.  I love the idea of this book and desperately want to write it; and finish it; and share it.

But I just couldn’t focus on doing it.  At one point I decided to go away for a month — to some remote locale where I’d have no distractions — nothing else to do but write.   Until life took over and I got a new client and was too busy (happily) writing for him to spend any time on myself.

Now, of course, I don’t care.  Because Julie’s blog struck a chord with me — a big chord.  And that very night I, once again, got excited about my book.  In my head I started working out the chapter to come.  I’m trying to write something every day — and so far, I’m succeeding — thanks to Magnificent Nose.

You see — inspiration can come from anywhere — even in your own backyard — which is exactly what WordPress is for those of us who blog here.  Is there a moral to my story?

You bet.  Don’t just come here to write your own blog.  Spend some time reading other blogs.  You’ll meet some great people who have some very interesting stories, many of whom have had or are having similar experiences to your own.

And who knows.  They might even be able to help you sort out a problem or two.  Look what happened to me.

 

 

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